On the eve of the 11th August general elections, I wish on behalf of the Community to draw your attention to the special significance of the occasion.
You are poignantly aware, more than anyone else, of the great efforts that you have exerted to climb from the depths of fratricidal civil war since 1991 unto a new dispensation of state reconstruction, national reconciliation and democratic consolidation. You are also acutely aware of the concerted efforts by the sub-region and the international community to accompany you in this arduous but noble journey.
This is the first time since the civil war that elections for the peaceful and credible transfer of power will be conducted by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leoneans. The 11th August elections therefore constitute a critical benchmark of the maturity of the nation and a significant milestone in your determined march towards national rebirth and international respectability. The international community is of the highest expectations that you will emerge from the process with credibility by putting the bitter past firmly behind you and joining the rest of the West African countries in consolidating peace and democracy in the sub-region.
To achieve this noble objective, the greatest responsibility lies with the Government, the electoral management bodies, the political parties and their candidates.
It is the expectation of ECOWAS that the Government will continue to create the necessary enabling environment for the National Electoral Commission, the security apparatuses and all bodies charged with the conduct of the elections to ensure a level playing field for free, transparent and credible elections that meet the standards set by the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and the international community. I also wish to draw the attention of the political parties and their candidates to your responsibilities, collectively and individually, for the conduct of credible elections devoid of violence and rancour, and to use exclusively peaceful and constitutional means to resolve disagreements in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity. I exhort you to desist from inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to violence, and to educate your followers, by example and appeals, on the merits of peaceful campaigns and tolerance of opposing views. Be mindful that words can trigger unthinkable acts that could take decades to rectify, please be measured with your words.
ECOWAS will apply zero-tolerance to any acts of violence in the electoral process. Over the last twelve months, the Community has been closely monitoring events in the country. Last June, a fact-finding mission was despatched to the country to meet with all key stakeholders in the process and, following its report, ECOWAS delivered forty vehicles to the National Electoral Commission to assist in the preparations. ECOWAS has despatched a 60-member Observer Mission to the country to continue monitoring the process to its successful conclusion.
On the occasion of the 11th August general elections, I congratulate the Government and people of Sierra Leone on their wonderful achievements and wish all the political parties and candidates success in their endeavours to ensure healthy and peaceful competition as you seek the mandate of the electorate.